Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Restaurant

A unique window of a Vietnamese restaurant.  No photos of the dishes or plastic recreations, instead these charming characters.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Ted blindly beers all

London beer week seemed a fitting occasion for my fellow brewer B and I to unveil the fruits of our brewing efforts to a small select gathering of friends with taste buds …

Since stowing our bounty under B’s stairs to “mature” we had been busy designing a front and back label, which we subsequently applied in a very scientific if somewhat low tech labelling session … I say “we” but really B did it as I’ve failed wrapping 101 many times and thus I was not to be trusted (by my own admission) with something this important. Labelling is thirsty work so we opened a bottle and were delighted when we tasted it to find that it had indeed surpassed our own somewhat restrained expectations of greatness, and drink-ability even.

Now … how to present our creation to our no doubt eager audience. Bingo … a blind beer tasting was the obvious answer. We had made an American Pale Ale style of beer, so we decided to get five other styles of ale made by craft brewers that are on sale commercially (brave huh) and put them all into a blind line up. Our intrepid tasters would be asked to identify the styles, take a pot shot at the brewers, and rate their preferences (for research purposes naturally). They were also asked to decide if each of the 6 statements on the back label were true or false. Have a go at deciding on these yourself (no googling) and I’ll give you the answers next week.

a) Beer is made with hops which are a member of the marijuana family b) In ancient times when brewing began hops and marijuana were practically identical and could only be told apart by smell c) Hence, the first brewers were women d) as women’s sense of smell is far superior to men’s e) Woman brewers were known as “Brewsters” f) Neither Ted or B have any ancestors called Brewster

B decided that as she didn’t know the running order of the beers and hadn’t googled the validity of anything on the back label that she would partake in the blind tasting and see if she could i) identify her own beer and ii) if she still liked it.

Everyone was provided with a cheat sheet that gave the characteristics (colour, smell, taste, and alcohol range) of each style and a list of the brewers.  The styles were Botanical (a wild card as it can be made from anything really), Pale ale, Golden ale, India Pale ale, American Pale ale (the aforementioned joint venture creation) and a Ruby ale.  Much looking, sniffing, slurping, and knowledgeable mutterings followed until it was time to hand in the guessing sorry I mean tasting sheets. My trusty accountant friend and chief scorer who shall remain nameless (Lizzie) had made the trek from out of town for the occasion and was duly locked in a room to compute the scores. Prizes were handed out for the best guessing and our little creation was rated 3rd favourite overall.

B didn’t manage to identify her own beer but she did like it …

Saturday, 20 August 2016

"Enter Rest & Pray" is inscribed above the doorway of these government offices.  OK it was originally a church but this spot has a bit of a checkered history.  A small chapel that once stood here was demolished during the building of the Piccadilly Line.  The Holy Trinity Church that was built in the early 1900's was badly damaged in a fire in 1985.  Further back residential houses stood on this site and the writer Mary Lamb lived in one. Sadly she wasn't like a little lamb and she actually stabbed her Mother to death ... poor thing was of course insane.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Measure of Success

You are visiting London and want me to show you the sites.  I just know you wouldn't be interested in a 150 year old pub with a history and tales to tell.  I just know you would rather this corner was a glass tower with a Starbucks at ground level and loads of offices and apartments above it, that's why you've travelled half way around the world, right?  I know you'd be impressed with how much money the developer has made in the past couple of years right?  Isn't that the measure of success?

The Pub sells Pieminister pies (a successful company based in Bristol that uses locally produced ingredients), they are proud of their selection of real ales, craft beers, lagers, single malts and selection of wines. It's a live music venue with an in-house-label for regulars with their CD's on sale at the bar.  Locals, both the hipster type, and the regular oldies rub shoulders here over their preferred tipple.  (Charles Dickens lodged just up the road as a child).  The owner of the building is a company registered in an off-shore tax haven - isn't that a measure of success?

Locals want to keep their pub just as it is.  They won the battle to prevent the demolition of the pub.  However now the pub has been advised of the new rent increase that takes effect in October, it will mean the pub has to close.  That's OK though as the landlord will get more rent from the new tenant.  Isn't that a measure of success?

Oscar Wilde said "people know the price of everything and the value of nothing".

This Saturday supporters will do a pub crawl around other threatened pubs and end up here at the Gladstone pub.  Why don't you join them.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Staircase

The staircase in the Tate Modern Gallery new extension that opened In June this year.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Love for All

"Love thy neighbour as thyself" is a Christian (and Jewish) commandment that seems to have slipped off the tablet in recent years, (either that or there is a lot of self hate in the world).  "Love for all, hatred for none" is the mantra for the Ahmadi Muslim sect that seems to be alive and well.  How so?  I hear you ask, aren't Muslims all terrorists threatening the western way of life?

I'm a curious person by nature and anything I don't understand (or know much about) I do my best to investigate to enable me to make up my own mind about what it all means.  We are living in troubled times with war, refugees, Brexit, inequality and a total mistrust of politicians.  It was this curiosity that resulted in me spending a day in Hampshire at an event called Jalsa with 38,000 muslims from 90 countries.

A flag for each country with staunch flag bearers and a water feature promising to take the Ahmadiyya message to all corners of the world, was the central feature of the temporary village that was erected on this Hampshire farm for the three day religious festival.  The scale of this village is mind boggling. (More on this later.)

Among the many exhibitions that I visited was one of the artefacts and arts of the ancient world. A replica of the shroud of Turin with both owner of the shroud Pam Moon, and the world's leading expert on the shroud, Barry Schwortze, both present and more than happy to discuss everything that is known about the shroud (and you thought this was only in Christian texts). Other items included an ancient manuscript, ceramics, fabrics, and metalware.  Many pieces were from a private collection and are hundreds of years old.  It was fascinating to learn from looking at a 12th century book of the Quran that the text in black (in the centre) is the teachings of Islam, but the writing in red around the edges of the pages are the "thoughts" of scholars in later years.  Some of these "thoughts" have subsequently been referred to as authoritative Islamic texts.

The temporary village had its own TV and radio station, as well as dedicated areas for all the international media.  The Ahmadiyya women ran their own media network, which meant every job and function was carried out by women.  How does that suppressed muslim women mantra go again?  Well, however it goes it was all blown out of the water here.  They were a well oiled and skilled team. Not only did they work without a man in sight (other than those they were interviewing) but they also had their kids wander in and out as if this is a normal part of life.

As in any village there were the markets.  Food, stalls, clothing, jewellery, toys, everything you might want or need.  I was transported to many parts of the globe.  The common thread was the message of love not hate.  The man from this stall sold hats, t-shirts, and jewellery, most with messages of love and peace.

What happened to the hippies of the 60's and 70's who believed in these messages?  Remember John and Yoko? Why does this same generation now mistrust anyone who is different?  What happened to change all of this for the worse? I would like to hear what others think about this (yes you dear readers).

Once upon a time, a million years ago, I ran a business in the food industry, so I'm always interested in the behind the scenes work, (I promised you a few sentences ago we would look at the scale of things in this temporary village). Now just start thinking about feeding 38,000 people three times a day. At my request I was transported to the kitchens where I witnessed the manufacture of 100,000 breads made in one day! Not a cross word spoken, everyone working together ... probably a place that Gordon Ramsay would benefit from visiting!

However let's not forget the primary purpose of the three days.  It is a religious event where the head of the organisation Mirza Masroor Ahmad is sending out a message to the devotees.

Devotees are here to make a pledge to their principals and leader. They were told that "their duty is to give back to the country they live in and to integrate with their neighbours." The principles of the community is to built relationships, to give back, and to be involved in the community whatever the religious differences.

Whatever your beliefs, I cannot disagree with the fundamental message of the Ahmadi of "Love for all, and hatred for none." 

Monday, 15 August 2016

The Street Corner

The corner opposite Portland Square tube station, a good stop to take to walk to Regent's Park.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Ted gets roasted

… and no of course I don’t mean I personally roasted in the blistering heat of a typical English summer (small pause while I roll on the floor laughing at my own joke … hey if I don’t who will??) … and now back to today’s topic. 

Roast restaurant is housed in a spectacular building that was relocated from Covent Garden and put in pride of place in my favourite spot … Borough Market. Despite having been a trading market since the 1100’s the Government saw fit to close it in 1755. The reason for it was … yes … standby … to sell the land to developers - oh how true it is that the more things change the more they stay the same.  Southwark residents rescued Borough Market by raising £6,000 to buy The Triangle, a patch of land that was once the churchyard of St Margaret’s. They reopened the market just a year after it was closed and The Triangle is still at the heart of Borough Market.

There’s no doubt Roast has a great location, with the wonderful urbanism of trains rolling by at eye level, and its pretty much unique of position of being the only place you can have a “corporate power breakfast” on the south side of London Bridge … but does it live up to its own publicity of great food built on excellent quality British produce and the national meal … “Sunday roast”.

So … get to the point Ted … how was Roast?.  Well … Treasures … the food either side of the main event was very good. Portland crab cakes with cucumber and horseradish gazpacho, pickled radish, and apple was a very nicely executed tasty textural affair. Next the piece du resistance … the “roast” and I chose pork belly with Bramley apple sauce. I wish I’d come earlier in the day when the crackling would have still been crisp, and the roast potatoes weren’t so hard on the outside that the fluffiness inside wasn't just too much hard work to appreciate. My Kent cherry choux bun with yogurt ice cream was a perfectly balanced affair … the recommended wine choice wasn’t …

Roast will endure and for good reason – the service is good, the food is good, the location is great, and the breakfasting and lunching out of towners love it … business logic not to be sneezed at … even in hay fever season.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

A Proper Picnic

The English do picnics so well, a properly laid table, a table cloth, crockery and cutlery, no paper plates thank you!  This oh so very English affair actually is of French origin.  The earliest reference found in French text in the 1700's where a "piquenique" was actually a BYO restaurant.

However it was in the 19th century that English society embraced the concept of outdoor dining turning it into a luxurious affair, a grand occasion of sumptuously laid tables set in meadows.  Foods prepared by chefs usually consisting of  pastries, hams and baked meats, with servants attending to the diners every needs.  Unlike wealth the concept of a more formal way of outdoor eating did trickle down to the masses and thus the traditional English picnic entered their culture.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Choose a Way

It's been a wee while since I ventured through one of the many great parks in London. I'm always dashing about, so it was so rewarding to rediscover just how truly beautiful and unique London's green spaces are.  Regent's park is looking magnificent at the moment, the roses are in full bloom and the perfume wafts through the air. The rain we had in early summer has had a plus side to it by ensuring that our green spaces are still incredibly lush.

The trigger for me taking time from my busy schedule and enjoying classic London was a new interactive London guide book called "Choose a Way" that I have downloaded on to my phone.

Mainly aimed at tourists and those new to London, it is also a handy wee guide for locals who have forgotten our national treasures.  One of my friends recently told me he had never been to the British Museum! (we are remedying that).

The author says "with a Choose a Way book, you select every step of the way - detailed attention to directions means a new traveller can feel instantly at home. This travel guide to London covers forty of the most interesting places in the city - enough for up to 5 days travelling around London.  Sites are mainstream, offbeat, indoors, outdoors, kid-friendly, for adults only, and more! Start in the morning, based on what time you're ready to go, and start tapping the links."

What I really like is that by having the book and apps on my phone it makes it easy to plan in advance or spontaneously where to visit and how to get there.

You can download your copy here.  A steal at $6.83

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Feeding the Pigeons

The birds in Regents Park are a big hit with tourists, especially the pigeons.  

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

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